Green chemistry is key to save the Earth
Shweta KatheriaNov 20, 2020 . Must read
19th century saw the emergence of many technological advancements as
a result of the development of the chemical industry.
However, the Rise in pollution and industrial accidents led governments across the globe to come up with strict environmental regulations, and thus environmental protection became a priority for the chemical industry.
This has provided the background for the emergence of Green Chemistry. Green Chemistry aims to minimize the environmental impact of the chemical industry. It is also known as sustainable chemistry.
Going by Definition, Green Chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. It prioritizes safety, improving energy efficiency, and elimination of toxic waste from the very beginning. Green Chemistry applies across the life cycle of a chemical product including its design, manufacture, use, and ultimate disposal.
12 principles that demonstrate the breadth of the concept of green
The need to Adapt
Chemical compounds like organic molecules (composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms mainly) form the basis of a lot of products ranging from
perfumes to plastics, farming to fabric, and dyes to drugs. Production of
these compounds involves chemical processes that require multiple
reaction steps and generate hazardous byproducts. The earlier focus used to
be on the safe disposal of these toxic byproducts. However, with green
chemistry setting in, the focus has shifted to eliminate them by making
chemical processes more efficient. One of the ways is the advent of
effective catalytic reactions. Nobel Laureate Ryoji Noyori has stressed
that catalytic processes are “the only methods that offer the rational means of producing useful compounds in an economical, energy-saving
and environmentally benign way.”
Catalysts can take many forms, including biological enzymes, small
organic molecules, metals, etc.
Green Chemistry can save the Earth
Reducing Greenhouse gases, Particulate matter, and smog
formation by Producing Green fuel out of waste gas byproducts
Many industrial processes typically create gas byproducts. Gas
fermentation processes in which microorganisms convert a combination
of gases into fuels do exist but most gas byproducts don’t have the right
combination of molecules required for gas fermentation. Green
chemistry has helped in developing microbes that can convert the gas
byproducts into green fuels. Analysis has shown that fuels produced in
this manner create fewer Greenhouse gases and particulate matter than
traditional fossil fuels.
Improving Air quality and reducing negative effect on ozone layer by Replacing CFCs with naturally occurring or CO2 byproducts in polystyrene foam sheets
Polystyrene foam will be familiar to anyone who has picked up an egg carton. Polystyrene foam is also used for meat and poultry trays and fast food containers. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a greenhouse gas that negatively affect the ozone and air quality, were required to make polystyrene.
However, the green chemistry process of using CO2 instead of CFCs is keeping 3.5 million pounds of CFCs out of the atmosphere and only using the existing CO2, so that it can help to reduce global levels of CO2 and improve air quality.
In the future: tackling the plastic problem and development of biodegradable plastics
Today, plastic takes anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to degrade, and anywhere from four to twelve million metric tons of additional plastic end up in our oceans every year. The end game can’t be far. Polyethylene is one of these plastics, known sometimes as PET or no. 1 plastic and is ubiquitously used for making plastic water bottles, paper bags, clam shell packaging, and other containers, thanks to its light weight and sturdiness. But the downside to those desirable qualities in modern living is that PET is hard to degrade because of its highly stable molecular structure and resilience against moisture. Fortunately, researchers in Japan have not only developed a green process in which a microbe can break down PET but also identified enzymes to stimulate the microbes to break down PET even faster.
Meanwhile, in California, Stanford researchers hope to provide a means for manufacturers to move away from petroleum-based production processes to make plastic. Today, many plastics are petroleum-based. Some lab researchers recently created a novel way to make plastic out of carbon dioxide and plant byproducts, such as agricultural waste or otherwise unusable plant material, like fibres left over from carrot juicing.
History suggests that humans can develop creative solutions to complex, intractable problems and Green chemistry can be highly rewarding in this direction in the future and is full of opportunities.